By Aileen Provan
As the IAMCP celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year, we were fortunate to be able to sit down with our former Chairman, Per Werngren, to reflect on the evolution of our organization and hear about some of his memories over the years.
Q: Originally formed in 1994 as the Association of Microsoft Solution Providers (AMSP), the IAMCP, as it’s now known, has over 100 chapters, is operating in 40 countries, and has attracted over 2,000 members. Impressive stats! What was your role when you became involved and how did it change as the organization, and its needs, grew?
- I joined IAMCP through the Swedish chapter in the early 2000s and at the 2002 MS Fusion Conference (now Inspire), I was invited to join the international board meeting; this was my first encounter with the larger organization. In 2003, I was elected worldwide president and there was an important meeting which resulted in a plan to make the organization (only present in the U.S., Canada, Italy and Sweden) worldwide. My mandate was growth and, under my leadership, we expanded to include chapters in 44 countries, meeting people around the world. At the same time, I was running a successful business in Europe and it was extremely important to ensure that no favours were given to either my company, or my country. The IAMCP represented all 44 countries.
From there, we branched out to include Europe and started in Asia Pacific.
In the end, I stepped down in 2016 to allow fresh leadership and new ideas to take the stage, and in the last year, we have started a diversity program to encourage more female leaders within the IAMCP, along with people of varying lifestyles and backgrounds.
Q: How did the Microsoft ecosystem look to the IT industry at that time and what was the basis upon which the IAMCP was formed?
- The IAMCP started as a lobby group, helping Microsoft and its partners tell a story to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), which saw the organization as an evil empire that wanted to control the world and wanted to divide it into portions. The organization spoke about the impact that a corporate split would have and, today, Microsoft is seen as a good corporate citizen. That said, after the battle was won, the IAMCP became less relevant and was somewhat forgotten.
However, in the late 1990s, new energy was injected in the U.S. and Canada; the IAMCP was growing with new chapters, but it was still a North American entity. With newly injected talent, such as Bob Marsh of MS, the IAMCP was able to start garnering the attention of Microsoft.
Q: You travelled to many different countries in your role of opening new chapters. With this new concept of membership in a collective body, how were you generally received at that time?
- In the smaller countries, we were told that our services were not required, because they believed that everyone knew one another. But when we started to talk about growing international business, we got their attention. Also, the local Microsoft office in each country would give me a speaking slot where I could sing my songs and gradually people started to understand the opportunities.
In Europe and Latin America, we were initially perceived as being in opposition to Microsoft, so our message had to convey that it was good business in the Microsoft ecosystem to be part of the IAMCP.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing prospective members needed to hear in order to come onboard?
- We were able to provide an atmosphere where competitors could meet and discover how to do business together, through each other’s area of expertise; we fostered building trust between MS partners, helping them to understand that they had to see it to believe it!
Q: And has that changed today, or do you think the message – to address the pain point – is still the same?
- The message remains the same, but it’s only recently that it has become fashionable to be specialized. With companies focusing on specialized skills, it’s now easier to communicate within the IAMCP, as everyone is talking the same language. Specialization drives the need for partnering.
Q: We understand that, initially, Microsoft didn’t pay much attention to the IAMCP, yet now we see integration between both organizations and, more recently, with WIT (Women in Technology). What do you believe drove such change?
- I’m pleased to see WIT growing and proud that it was created within the IAMCP. Microsoft has always embraced diversity, but it has been hard for women in tech to get access to funding. Microsoft’s Allison Watson was very important to the IAMCP and helped grow the ecosystem.
Q: On the IAMCP website WIT page, there’s a wonderful quote from you about how WIT is driving diversity at all levels. It says: "You make IAMCP stronger. Because of what you do, we reach new groups and female leaders who are under-represented in our industry. We need your help to drive more diversity at all levels."
What are your thoughts on the importance of this in both the future of the IAMCP, and in encouraging young women to pursue a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education and career?
- Society has changed and customers have changed. Women are more visible as leaders on the customer side; as a vendor, you need to mirror your customer landscape, so it’s important for vendors to be as diverse as their audience.
Plus, why say no to talent? Open up to recruiting those who are different, brighter and able to contribute in another way. We see women in marketing, rather than tech positions and by promoting STEM, we will have more women in the tech area. But it’s not all about tech, there are other ways to be a leader in this industry. I’m not tech, but I have been running tech companies since the 1990s – it’s not about technology; it’s about leadership!
Q: In your initial email response to me, you mentioned your passion for the IAMCP and I can really feel it – it’s your baby, and over your years of involvement, you must have seen a great deal of change as the organization evolved. What are the key highlights that stand out in your memory over this period?
- LATAM – brought new people to the international board and introduced new dynamics;
- IDC reports, which validated our worth as an independent party;
- First time on the big stage for me and for IAMCP – recognition for the organization as a whole;
- Speaking at the MS partner conference in India – I truly felt the opportunity for starting chapters in the largest democracy in the world; and
- Speaking in Russia through a translator – a very different experience, which all worked out perfectly!
Q: And this brings me back to the stories about opening the various chapters around the world. Please tell me more about those events!
- When we met with the Bulgarians, a two-day meeting started with lunch and vodka – this was hard for me to do and I had to change and simplify my speech for the audience, but in the end, they accepted my proposal. On the 3rd day we came back to Sofia and I was the guest of honour, invited by the local politicians to cut the ribbon at the opening of a sports venue.”
Q: Is there another particularly memorable scenario you can share?
- Sure. I was invited to Switzerland and was so late! I missed my flight, but MS picked me up; they joined for dessert and then they started bumping the table with their fists and I thought they wanted me to leave – it turned out that this is a cultural show of appreciation!
Q: Where do you think IAMCP will go from here?
- It’s time to celebrate the creation of something really successful and proven over long-time effort. Members have built successful businesses, in part due to their association with the IAMCP. It’s important to look ahead to the future, and it’s also important to celebrate where we’ve been and what we’ve done.
Also, facilitating the growth of partners in P2P, and in the promotion of female leaders within our chapters around the globe, will help the organization to expand. Through the D & I Program, we’re learning to mirror the world and that of our customers.
Q: Per, in closing, what is the single, most important message you’d like to deliver to current IAMCP members and those who might be considering membership?
- My old punchline: if you really spend time with IAMCP and go to meetings, it’s impossible for you NOT to get great monetary benefits from association with the organization. Best advice: give another partner an opportunity – play the givers’ game and don’t ask for opportunity; give the opportunity!
Many Members have built successful businesses, in part due to their association with the IAMCP. It’s important to look ahead to the future, and it’s also important to celebrate where we’ve been and what we’ve done. For me, it’s like seeing my children grow up!
We are grateful to Per for sharing his memories from the past and his perspective on the future of the IAMCP; thank you Per!